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The Art of Smiling

Photo by Tina Su
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, and honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. ~Leo F. Buscaglia

Actually, there isn’t any art behind it. Just that you were born to be happy, and you can show this happiness with that beautiful smile of yours. C’mon! Let’s see it. :) Okay, good.

To some extent, we all know how to spot a genuine smile, basically this formula:

Genuine Smile = Crinkly Eyes

bbc-faces.jpg We are all sensitive to this genuine scale, so why then is it that when we cross paths with a stranger or casual acquaintance in the elevator, we give them a fake smile? That ‘polite smile’. You know what I’m talking about (don’t get me wrong, I do this too, unconscious at grocery stores, on streets, while waiting for something.).

The lesson? Smile with your eyes! Feel it genuinely and it will come out naturally.

Extras: check out this quick interactive quiz from BBC to test out your ability to spot the difference between a real smile and a fake one.

Side Note: I am now smiling as I write this article. I love it! Thank you for reading and allowing me to express myself creatively.

A smile is so simple, yet so powerful. Some noticeable effects of externalizing your internal joy are:

  • People will be attracted to you – I don’t mean sexually (well, maybe that too), but people will feel drawn to your energy. When you smile more, you will carry an aura and poise that will draw people to you. People will look forward to being around you, knowing only that they feel great around you. People on the street, at work, your friends etc. We all like and want to be around happy and cheerful people, right?
  • Optimistic – You’ll feel more positive about yourself and the world.
  • Happiness & Joy – A smile is an expression of happiness and joy in you. Like an upward spiral, a smile will boost the happiness you feel.
  • Healthy – A smile can affect your internal state, which can have physiological impact on your physical and mental health.
  • Approachable – A smile is so welcoming and will make people feel more at ease.
  • Making Other People Happy – A smile has the power to make other people feel good about themselves. It’s heart-warming and has the power to cheer up others instantly.
  • Smiles Are Contagious – Others can quickly and easily catch it and will experience the above ‘side effects’.

Take The Smiling Challenge!


  • Smile at Strangers -You know those times when we cross paths with a stranger or accidentally catch someone’s gaze, and we (both) would suddenly look away in awkwardness or pretend we are looking at something else? Well, the challenge is to give them a big smile. A genuine smile, showing teeth and everything. Deepak Chopra talks about giving each person you encounter a small gift. I do this with a smile. Why not? It doesn’t cost us anything. Plus, it’s a lot more fun than feeling awkward and pretending you’re not there.I also love to see people’s reactions when you smile at them, and they aren’t expecting it. Some blush, and others are surprised and smile back, which makes me feel all warm inside.
  • Smile at Homeless People and Street Hagglers –

    I live in a part of downtown Seattle with lots of street hagglers and homeless people. People often ask me whether I get ‘harassed’ often. The answer is: sometimes. But they really are very nice, just like the rest of us. They too need attention and acknowledgment. So, give them a gift worth more than money.Next time someone asks you for money, don’t try to ignore them. Turn to them, smile warmly and tell them how you feel. If you don’t feel like giving money, just tell them “Sorry, I don’t have change now. Have a beautiful day!”Similarly, if something is trying to sell you something or ‘hitting-on’ you, simply turn to them, smile and say “No thank you.”I’ve found that it takes more energy to ignore and pretend to be very serious, than it is to smile. So smile! Make someone’s day!

  • Smile Fully -You know that half smile we give people when we’re trying to be polite? Like on an elevator, bumping in someone at the front door, or waiting in line. Why not practice giving them a real smile? It’ll be less awkward and you can potentially make someone’s day, or a new friend!
  • Smile at Work -Living under a routine, we can easily be in a zombie-like state when coming into work. We zip into work quickly following the same routines we’ve habituated. Our target is to get to work, and we can sometimes forget about the people around us, in other cubes/offices/departments. So, the challenge is to practice beaming with smile as you come into work. Smile genuinely with people you meet. Be completely pleased to see them. Make it a focus for the day, to bring more happiness into the lives of others. Ask them genuinely and infused with energy, “How are ya?”How was your weekend?” Watch the smiles surface on their face.
  • A Small Compliment with Your Smile -When meeting or encountering people. Look for things you admire or like about them, however small, let them know. A small genuine compliment can go a long way to lift people’s spirits.

I’ve found it useful to be conscious of things that make me smile. You might want to spend a few minutes making a list of things that brings a smile to your face.

Some Moments That Make Me Smile are:


  • When Tommy (my eight pound Pomeranian doggie) does one of his tricks: spin in circles, playing dead, or his ‘moonwalk’ dance (that’s right, he moonwalks… *laughs*).
  • When I practice gratitude ‘sessions’
  • When I reach mini goals throughout the day.
  • When I read comments left by readers.
  • When savoring sweet taste of vanilla ice cream
  • When I do my happy dance, and make friends laugh with my ridiculousness.
  • When Adam (my partner) brings me food or chai in the morning as I’m working away on my laptop.
  • When my mother laughs

More Tips To Bring Smiles into Your Life

  • Smiling Journal – For two weeks, record the moments that brought out your wonderful smile. If you are ever feel down, flip through this book to be reminded of things that make you smile. Experience those moments and notice your state shift to a positive one. You cannot be both angry and smiling at the same time. I learned in physiological psychology that if the physical action conflicts with that of your feeling, the feeling inside will shift to match that of your outer sensation. One way to shift your emotion is to change your physiology.
  • Appreciation – Identify things that you are grateful for. Then focus on those things as much as possible.
  • Humor – Make a point to watch a comedy movie. To go a comedy club. Hang out with people who make you laugh.
  • Go On a Self Date – When we feel more connected with ourselves, we feel more joy and tend to naturally smile more.
  • Find Innocence – Observe a small child or a pet at play with total ease and freedom. Watch their innocence, enjoy their presence and yours. Are you smiling? Do you feel happy for them? That’s because you are connecting with the same innocence within yourself.


What makes you smile? Who made you smile today? Share your joy and happiness in a comment! See you there. *smiles*

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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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115 thoughts on The Art of Smiling

  1. Good post.

    Smiling can ease many difficult situations. Even if we have to force a smile it can be good for us and the other person.

  2. Thanks for the post!
    I find that simply practicing finding reasons to smile has a snowball effect. The increased level of happiness produces a smile beyond my face. It shows in the sound of my voice, my body language, and expands to the area around me.

    At the same time, when I’m around someone shining like that, I find that the smile can be downright contagious :)

  3. James

    Great post!

    My only problem is a physically find it hard to smile with teeth showing – I just can’t seem to do it! But I can smile normally, which lately I’ve been doing a lot more, and I’ve started feeling a lot more optimistic and happy.

  4. I’m smiling!!! Thanks for the good reminder.


  5. @James

    haha.. I was laughing out aloud when I read your comment. The part about challenging to smile with teeth. :D
    I think I mentioned that to suggest we smile genuinely. For me, my fake smiles are always just moving my lips back without showing teeth. :) Thanks for sharing.


    Thanks for commenting Tejvan, John and Andrea! :)

  6. Sophie

    aw i love this!

    today i was walking back to my apartment, and i saw two baby poodles out for a walk, one black and one white.

    and the black one had this peice of wood in his mouth that was probablly wider than he was long! and im smiling thinking about it now, but it made me laugh out loud it was so sweet!


    i’ll definitly smile more.

    once when i was a little girl, around 15 years old…a friend said, ew don’t smile it makes you look ugly.
    It took me a long time to have the confidence to really be free with myself. but now i am. and i hope to pass that on.


    Much love,

  7. Another great peace, Tina! I’m rubbish at spotting people’s fakeness or genuine smiles, but that test was awesome!

  8. Gil

    Frown and you’ll be frowning alone. Smile and the whole world will be smiling with you. That may be a stretch, but a smile is incredibly powerful in the universal scheme of things or “Law of Attraction”. When you smile you only are not bound to attract positive vibes and energy towards you but people will also be wondering what you’re up to. :)

  9. @Sophie

    Aww.. thanks for sharing this little bit of joy. The story with the poodles made me smile. :) I could see it… my dog is ridiculous sometimes too… he has this stuffed ring toy (like a stuffed Frisbee with a hole cut out in the middle.) and he’ll pick it up at the hole in the center, so you see his noise poking out in the center and the rest of his face covered (eyes, ears). He’ll run around the apartment with that thing over his face. It always makes me laugh. :)

    RE: a friend said, ew don’t smile it makes you look ugly. It took me a long time to have the confidence to really be free with myself…

    Thanks for sharing. Isn’t it amazing how things we pick up as little kids (even as adults) like this conditions our believe about things? And carries with us into adulthood?

    I’m so pleased to hear that you are recognizing this and are able to be free with yourself.


    Thanks for commenting Albert, Gil and Jude. :) It really makes me smile to see you here. Have a great day!

  10. I tend to be happy and smile a lot. Sometimes it’s contagious, but some people think happy people are stupid. Has anyone else noticed that? I still remember a friend telling me, “Maybe you do know something, Jean. I also thought you were so happy because you were stupid.” ;)

  11. Armannd

    Too much smiling is not good smiling.

  12. Hi Tina,
    You are definitely a natural “smiler” from looking at your pic and reading your blog!
    Love the BBC test. Did another test recently where you have to pick one face out of a mass of faces. In the first shot all are unhappy except for one and in the second shot all are happy except for one.
    Studies show our eyes are always drawn most quickly to the happy expression :)
    Thanks for great tips – smiling already.

  13. @Jean, @Armannd

    I’ve never heard of “happy people are stupid”.. but I think I can relate to where you’re coming from.. I guess it depends on how you interact with people. I would certainly not pretend to be un-happy for the sake of appearing ‘stupid’ to some people.

    If you are smiling unnaturally, I think people will be suspicious. But if you are smiling because you just can’t help it. I really don’t think there’s any problems with that.

    The point I’m trying to make here is not
    “to be smiling all the time”, but to remind people not to be so serious all the time. I catch myself giving polite half smiles all the time, or pretending to stare straight on when crossing path with people…. sometimes a little smile to a stranger can really brighten their day.

    Thanks for adding your two cents Jean and Armannd.

  14. “Who made you smile today?”

    That would be you!

  15. Greg Samis

    Hi Tina,
    A genuine smile and sense of respect has already made my day that much warmer. I met coworker from another department in the elevator today, and started a conversation. It was a very uplifting way to start the day. These moments really do come full circle!
    I’m really enjoying your blog. Everytime I come back, you seem to have a new perspective on bringing light into my life. I’m looking forward to your next post already!
    Keep up the great content!
    – Greg

  16. I always smile. I think this is because i don’t take life seriously. Every morning i say to myself that this can be my last day, so there is no need to be sad or hurt anyone. Today i have laughed after i have seen my niece’s last photo on her blog :)

  17. Hi Tina,

    If the picture in your BlogCatalog is really you, then I would say that you have one of the most beautiful smile in the world.

    So, make sure you visit my blog often so that I can see the smile everyday. ;)

    I got 13 correct out of 20 in the BBC test.

    This is what I look when I smile. :)
    I hope that you are smiling now while reading this comment. :D

  18. Hi Tina,
    Thanks for sharing a wonderful post.
    “A smile is a curve which can set a lot of things straight.”
    My best wishes.(with lot of smiles)

  19. Armannd

    I just finished the “Spot The Fake Smile” test and my results are much higher than expected: 19/20.
    The one that fooled me: number 3. That’s a very good fake.

    “happy people are stupid” – (most) happy people are not stupid. What I meant to say by “too much smiling is not good smiling” is that smiling too much becomes tiresome (for both giver and receiver).

  20. I am grinning from ear to ear and I really feel good right now. I smile a lot, but it always feels good to be reminded of power you wield with a simple smile. I will be composing my newest “soupornuts’ reasons to click” soon. You can be assured that this article is a definite “reason to click”. Thanks again.

  21. Tina:
    Your posts are heavy on the practical. Making mention of how a fake smile differs from a crinkly smile are very germaine to this posting.
    I had been smiling more lately in an effort to increase my “approachability index”, now I must remember to crinkle the eyes like aluminum foil.

  22. Loved your article Tina! It made me smile the whole time I was reading it. :0)
    I wrote a funny article about being happy and smiling called “Nobody told my face I was happy.” It’s about how sometimes I can be very happy or satisfied and feeling good and it doesn’t show on my face.

    I loved your tips on smiling and your exercises. I’ll have to some of them and let you know how it turns out.

    I will share this; I used to work at a place where people were often “too busy” to smile. So I used to go in the bathroom and smile and talk to myself. It was so funny and it always made me smile. I still do it to this day, except now I give myself the love I’m not getting from around me “Shirley you are very thoughtful and helpful today.” or “Shirley you are in such a good mood today, I like that.” It’s a nice boost when other people don’t give you the attention you need.

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